It’s significant to me that the presidency for America’s first African-American president will come to a close next Thursday, January 19, 2017. It’s significant to many, many people in my life, throughout the nation, and around the world.
It’s significant to pause and consider America changed her history eight years ago and elected her first-ever African American president and person of color president. That’s worthy of celebration. America CHANGED HER HISTORY. She showed that race and color could no longer be a barrier to how she would be led by her own people.
That had never happened before on a presidential level.
I’ve had the honor to vote in five elections in my lifetime. 1st time in 2000, as a 20 yr-old. And eight of those 16 years that span my voting experience were lived during America’s 1st African-American Presidency. That is historic. That gives me pause.
These eight years and this presidency were not without their challenges, questions, and at times disappointments. But this is life. And we grow through how we learn, listen, and use moments to shape us for more opportunities in the future.
Seeing President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle, and their beautiful daughters Malia and Sasha in The White House the last eight years = significance because seeing them means I see me. I see an affirmation of brown skin and black culture that poured confidence and belonging into my soul.
I see tender respect for family, marriage, parenting, and love. I see my President and First Lady, but I also see a dad who hilariously imitates his teenage daughters on their cell phones texting to their friends, “Girl, I couldn’t believe it…” and a mom who goes to CVS to get earphones for her daughter. I see America. Diverse. Not all the same and learning to respect the differences in others. Bridging the gaps. Crossing the divides.
When reports surfaced throughout these eight years at different times of American citizens publicly and often via social media calling The First Lady a “first chimp” or a “monkey” and The President a “spider monkey” or a “nigger” it digs into the significance that grew my confidence through this presidency. It hurts. It makes me mad. People are still calling black people animals some 154 years after the end of American slavery and the declaration of The Emancipation Proclamation. Still seeing us as not human, not enough, less than simply because our skin is a different shade. That hate for The President and The First Lady is unconsciously absorbed by me because I look just like them. I’m black. The hate that so easily spews from ignorant minds towards the leader of the free world can just as easily come my way.
This callous racism surfaces because of the color of the President and The First Lady’s skin, parts of their physical makeup and identity they had no choice in selecting. God created them in His image. He chose their brown skin. He chose my brown skin. He chose all the skin colors in this world. Before the world knew any of us, He knew us. He was present as we were being knit together in our mama’s wombs. He knew US. And this is why the dig of racism is so vitriolic, so sinful, and very demonic: It calls what God created with intention and from love defective and unworthy. And this kind of severe brokenness can only be redeemed through the power and the blood of Jesus Christ.
Racism forces me to stop and accept that though America did change her history, many people don’t want to live in the present. They lust for the prejudice and bigotry of the past. I hate that people want hate more than they want racial diversity, cultural understanding, and relationships with others who don’t look like them or come from the same background as them. I hate that ignorance is just as alive and well in 2017 as it was after Civil War Reconstruction and early Jim Crow laws took their death grip across the American South and other parts of the nation.
Hate had grandchildren and her sister racism did the same and now we are here. We are here dealing with their kids and we are here trying to protect our kids and we are here fighting to be human.
And yet hate will not win. She’s riddled with deficits.
Love has already won this war and the banner of victory rests beautifully on the shoulders of Jesus, the Messiah. He fills in all the gaps that hate leaves empty and deformed. He is The One who holds all things together:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1: 15-17
His love reminds me to have hope. That hope inspired me to write a letter of thanks to The President and First Lady this week. In the face of intense realities these last eight years, they both served in their human giftings and also human limitations, with faith and diligence, as they opened their lives and shared their family with millions in our country and around the world. They showed up for the challenges and are leaving next week, having woven some new tapestry into the fabric of America’s ever-evolving story.
In my 37 years of life, this is the first time I’ve written to The President of The United States. The first time I’ve mailed something to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500. Yesterday, I kept looking at the envelope with my handwriting, touched the stamps, and thought to myself, “I’m mailing a letter to The President. Wow.” I feel like I’m a part of history. I’m grateful for that.